The main suspect in the deadly stabbing spree in Saskatchewan earlier this month died in police custody after ingesting drugs, Global News has learned.
Multiple police sources have told Global News Myles Sanderson fatally overdosed shortly after his arrest by RCMP on Sept. 7, which came after a four-day-long manhunt that covered the entire province.
RCMP have only said Sanderson went into “medical distress” following a police takedown of his vehicle, and was later pronounced dead in hospital despite life-saving measures performed by officers and paramedics. A cause of death has not been officially released.
Sanderson was accused along with his brother Damien Sanderson of killing 10 people and wounding 18 others in a series of stabbings on James Smith Cree Nation and the nearby village of Weldon, Sask., on Sept. 4. Damien was found dead the next day on the Indigenous reserve.
On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan Coroners Service announced two public inquests will be held next year — one into the deaths that occurred on Sept. 4, including Damien’s, and the other into Myles Sanderson’s death.
In Saskatchewan, public inquests are mandatory when a person dies in police custody. The coroners service can also hold inquests as a way to inform the public about sudden unnatural deaths.
Chief Coroner Clive Weighill would only tell reporters that preliminary autopsy results show Myles Sanderson did not suffer from blunt force trauma.
He said the coroners service is still awaiting final results from his autopsy and a toxicology report which could take up to four months to complete. The reports won’t be released to the public until the inquest begins because investigators don’t want to taint the process, Weighill said.
The preliminary results were released due to the intense public interest in the case, he added.
“We have due processes in Canada, to make sure the public is aware of what’s happened. It takes a while to put a picture together,” Weighill said Wednesday.
“The last thing we want is to give out some preliminary information, and then the witnesses at the inquest give different information and now we have a real quagmire of ‘What really did happen?’
“It’s prudent to make sure we have all the information, everything is gathered in a proper form and then presented in an inquest.”
Saskatchewan RCMP have not yet completed their investigation into the killings. Independent probes into Myles Sanderson’s death are also being conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team to determine if police actions played a role, and whether his death could have been prevented.
No timeline has been given for when the probes will be concluded, but Saskatoon police promised its report will be delivered to the provincial justice ministry upon completion.
The ministry did not answer Global News’ questions Tuesday about whether it will release that report to the public once it is received.
On Tuesday, federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino — who previously said the government has “questions” about Myles Sanderson’s death — told reporters in Ottawa that the integrity of the investigations needs to be respected, despite understanding the public’s urgency to know the cause of death.
“The only way that we are going to be able to address (those concerns) is if we have an independent investigation that is carried out by the appropriate authorities, which is exactly the process that we are following right now,” he said.
“It is only by following that process that we can allow for a measure of healing and justice for the community.”
In her most recent statement, released last Thursday, Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Comm. Rhonda Blackmore said police “still do not know” how Sanderson died and urged patience as the investigations continue.
“I ask you all to remember this is not a TV drama where we will have all of the answers by the end of the episode,” she said. “Complex investigations of this nature take time and we look forward to providing further details once they have been confirmed.”
— with files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and Nancy Hixt, and the Canadian Press